Sunday, May 20, 2018

The German-American Experience in World War I

Today, Wisconsin celebrates its German heritage, but that was not always the case. When the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, the nation also turned its eyes to the German people and culture within its borders. Wisconsin, with its high number of German-born residents, faced particular scrutiny as paranoia and fear blanketed the country and the loyalty of all was questioned.

What was it like to be a German American in Cuba City at this time? Joseph and Mary Hauser came to the United States from Germany at the turn of the century and settled in Cuba City by 1905. According to several people who remember the couple, they lived near the VFW building on the northwest side of town. Joseph and Mary became U. S. citizens just before World War I began. Census information tells us that Joseph was a laborer who worked at “odd jobs” and neither Joseph nor Mary could speak English.

Anti-German propaganda was everywhere and one needed to look no further than the local newspaper or movie house to find it. Formerly complimentary German stereotypes of hardworking, educated individuals gave way to stories of German brutality. The demonization of Germans was common and many films such as The Beast of Berlin were shown at the Auditorium in Cuba City.

Advertisement from the Centralia Evening Sentinel (June 15, 1918)

Speaking German would have been considered suspicious as many Americans were convinced that German spies lurked everywhere. Often, schools removed German language instruction from the curriculum after the United States entered the war. Though German was offered in the 1917 Cuba City High School advertisement, it had been replaced with Latin by the time the 1918 advertisement rolled out.

 Advertisement from the Cuba City News Herald (August 31, 1917)

Advertisement from the Cuba City News Herald (August 23, 1918)

Paranoia surrounding Germans in the United States reached a new level when those who had not yet become U. S. citizens were required to register with authorities and were considered enemy aliens. These individuals were fingerprinted, photographed, and given an identification card that had to be carried at all times. The registration card images below are courtesy of the Chippewa Valley Museum in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

During the war, Americans were pressured to prove their allegiance to the cause, and this would have been especially true of German Americans like Joseph and Mary Hauser. One of the first available to ways to show support for the war effort was by displaying the American flag. This message was found in the April 20, 1917 issue of the Cuba City News Herald : “Flags are conspicuous on local autos but are sadly lacking on public buildings and residences. Hang out a flag.”

In May 1917, the Red Cross organized a branch in Cuba City and all were encouraged to join. In June 1917, Liberty Loans went on sale and offered residents a way to prove their loyalty by purchasing government bonds. In case anyone needed extra incentive, the Cuba City News Herald published the names of buyers and the amount of money contributed.

On May 31, 1918, the Cuba City Chapter of the Wisconsin Loyalty Legion met at City Hall and decided to meet monthly thereafter. The purpose of the loyalty legions was, according to a Dubuque Telegraph Herald article, “to promote patriotism in the community and to make people come out and stand for one side or the other."

What were the consequences if someone did not show an “appropriate” amount of support for the war effort? They were labeled “slackers.” “Don’t be a slacker” was a common refrain in the newspaper, and Cuba City residents who had not financially contributed to any patriotic campaign were threatened with having their names published in the post office and newspaper. The pervasiveness of the idea can even be seen in the St. Rose Catholic School's Christmas program in 1918. The seventh-grade boys performed a song or skit titled “A Slacker’s Idea of Christmas.”

Advertisement in the Cuba City News Herald for a film showing at the Auditorium in Cuba City on February 25, 1918.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Ode to Mothers

In honor of Mother's Day, a few poems written by Cuba City High School students Helene Peacock and Dorothy Goldthorpe. These were published in the Senior Sentinel, a newsletter recapping the 1931-32 school year.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Early Post Office and Street Scene

This photograph of Cuba City's Main Street was probably taken not long after the post office and bank building, seen here, was built beside the railroad tracks in 1907. There are lots of great details in this one, including the horse peeking out beside the railroad cars.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

"A brilliant girl" : Imelda Bridget Doyle

At a time when higher education, particularly for women, was not very common, Cuba City resident Imelda Bridget Doyle’s academic career was notable.

Imelda Bridget Doyle, 1905

The daughter of Arthur and Catherine Doyle, Imelda grew up on a farm northwest of Cuba City, near Georgetown. She was one of several siblings, many of whom were also fortunate to receive an impressive education.

Imelda Doyle graduated from Cuba City High School in 1900, and then went on to attend St. Clara Academy at Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. St. Clara’s was established several decades earlier by the Rev. Samuel Mazzuchelli and drew female students from across the country due to its excellent reputation.

At St. Clara Academy, Imelda was on the editorial staff of the school publication, The Young Eagle, and in addition to her regular coursework, she took lessons in piano, violin, and painting.

Poem written by Doyle for The Young Eagle

After graduating from the Academy in 1903, Doyle pursued her Bachelor of Arts degree in the new college course developed at St. Clara’s. She was one of only four young women in the second graduating college class.

After leaving school, Imelda Doyle took a position teaching in Phillips, Wisconsin.

Sadly, like many of her siblings, she died at a very young age. Only a few years after she began her teaching career, a lingering illness took her life on August 18, 1909, at the age of 26. The newspaper articles discussing her untimely death called Imelda “a brilliant girl,” and her funeral was one of the largest St. Rose Catholic Church in Cuba City had seen.

Doyle is buried with her family in the St. Rose Cemetery, north of Cuba City.

Thank you to the Sinsinawa Dominican Archives staff for providing information about Imelda Doyle's time at St. Clara's.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Landmark Old Western

Years before the village of Cuba City was planned in 1875, the area was known for an inn that welcomed many traveling the busy Mineral Point-Galena road by stagecoach and oxen cart.

The Western Hotel, as it was called, consisted of a large house, barn, and stables, and served as a rest stop and source of entertainment for miles around. It was located on the west side of what is today Cuba City’s Main Street, between Benton and Lafayette Streets, and would have occupied the site of Steve’s Pizza and a nearby residence.

 Location of the Western Hotel

No illustrations of the Western property have surfaced, but it must have been something to behold. A description of the inns and taverns along the Mineral Point-Galena Road describe the “Old Western” as “a monstrous hotel and barn” and “probably the greatest land mark on the whole route.”

Several well-known individuals supposedly passed the time at the Western, including Ulysses S. Grant and Jefferson Davis.

The hotel was built in the early 1850s by the Stedman Davis family, who moved to Wisconsin from Maine. Two of the Davis sons, Andrew and Josiah, seem to have been especially associated with the hotel’s operation.

There are conflicting accounts of the inn’s numerous later owners, but among those mentioned are a Mr. Blodgett, William Miller, William S. Cook, Robert Packard, and William Stephens.

By the latter part of the 1860s, fewer coaches and carts full of lead and other wares were passing by the Western as railroad expansion competed with earlier forms of transportation. This no doubt hurt business at the inn and, according to an early history, it closed by 1869.

In 1876, there was talk of moving the hotel closer to the village’s business district for use as retail and office space, but Cuba City’s centennial history claims that parts of the old building were retained when building the William Pascoe home, which still stands just north of Steve’s Pizza.

A 1949 article in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald revisted the history of the inn nearly one hundred years after its construction. At that time, a few reminders of the old hotel still remained near the home of Carl Wilberding, on the corner of Main and Benton Streets, including a root cellar and a depression in the front yard at the site of an old well.

For a more detailed description of the Western Hotel, check out this account by a long-time Cuba City resident, written in 1915:

Back When Cuba City was Western


Crawford, George and Robert M., eds. Memoirs of Iowa County : from the earliest historical times down to the present. Northwestern Historical Association, 1913.

Cuba City Centennial
, 1975.

“Frozen coachman part of history.” Telegraph Herald, June 12, 1949.

Galena Daily Gazette

Friday, March 30, 2018

High School Baseball Team, 1915

In honor of Major League Baseball's opening day this week, enjoy a photo of the Cuba City High School's 1915 baseball team.

Image from the Cuba City Centennial history.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Florence Phillips's style parlors

In March 1918, Florence Phillips opened a millinery shop in Cuba City. Phillips was a graduate of Cuba City High School and would only have been about 20 years old when she went into business selling women's hats. 

Florence Phillips (wearing a white blouse) in her freshman class photo in the 1913 Cuba City High School yearbook.

Phillips's shop was located next to the Northwestern Hotel (seen here with the front porch). The millinery shop is just to the right. The Northwestern Hotel was located where Mound City Bank stands today, on the corner of Main and Webster Streets.

The following announcement was published in the March 1, 1918, issue of the Cuba City News Herald:

Miss Florence Phillips to conduct style parlors
Cuba City is to have a new millinery establishment. Miss Florence Phillips has rented the Banfield building one door south of the Northwestern Hotel and will carry a fine line of the latest designs in millinery. 

Florence Phillips operated her millinery shop for over five years before selling to Agnes Walsh in November 1923. Phillips was married the following month and she and her civil engineer husband, Harvey Austin, wound up living and raising a family in Montana.